THE PROGRAM (NC16)
104 minutes/4.5/5 stars
"We transformed your lousy little Eurosport into a global brand," spits American cycling team manager Bill Stapleton (Lee Pace). The sneer is aimed at an anti-doping official who has the temerity to suggest that Lance Armstrong's test results are not as clean as they should be.
Stapleton's contempt for the official does not just show the kind of bullies he and Armstrong could be; it reveals the imbalance of power between athletes and the bodies that struggle to govern them. Not only that, you get an idea of how the Tour de France became so riddled with money politics that only cheaters could win. Stephen Frears directs with a clear and damning moral centre.
Ben Foster's Armstrong is cinema's best villain in ages, a man who was a thug when he was on top, and after the fall, saw himself as a victim.
RENDEZVOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA
This year's festival continues the focus on films feted at the Cannes Film Festival. Opening night feature Dheepan (NC16, 114 minutes) won the Palme d'Or this year.
Directed by Jacques Audiard (Rust And Bone, 2012; A Prophet, 2009), the drama centres on a former Tamil Tiger fighter who finds asylum in France under a false identity. Another highlight is the critically-acclaimed comedy Microbe Et Gasoil (Microbe And Gasoline, rating TBA, left), from Michel Gondry (The Science Of Sleep, 2006; Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 2004).
WHERE: Alliance Francaise Theatre, GV Plaza, The Cathay Cineplex, Shaw Theatres Lido WHEN: Dec 5 - 13 ADMISSION: Various prices INFO: For schedules and bookings, go to www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.sg
MISS YOU ALREADY
NC16, 113 minutes/4/5 stars
In this cancer comedy, Jess (Drew Barrymore, above left) and Milly (Toni Collette, above right) are friends whose ties are strained when Milly is told of a tumour growing in her breast. Jess needs to lend support to her best friend even
as she and husband Jago (Paddy Considine) cope with challenges of their own. Adapted from a BBC radio play, this is the opposite of loose-limbed illness diaries such as 50/50 (2011). Here, the story gallops, never dwelling on any emotional beat. If anything, director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, 2008; Red Riding Hood, 2011) is a little too aware of slumping into the maudlin. She packs in camera moves that glide and eye-candy locations. Jess and her hubby live on a houseboat; the streets of London sparkle. That desire for tonal edginess bleeds most into the character of Milly, a woman who never outgrows her party-girl stage or thinks twice about manipulating her best pal or feels she should share the limelight. Milly is no saint, but she grows on you.
120 minutes/3.5/5 stars
This is a movie based on a manga about teen manga geniuses. A manga about manga has an added frisson of meta-ness about it, but it still works as a film adaptation.
Moritaka Mashiro (Takeru Satoh, left) can draw and Akito Takagi (Ryunosuke Kamiki, right) is good at writing stories. So the two high school students team up to work on an original manga. Their aim is to land a series in venerable compilation Shonen Jump Weekly, which is already featuring the work of genius student Eiji Niizuma (Shota Sometani). While it is not too much of a surprise as to whether their dream comes true, you still find yourself rooting for the boys as, ink-stained and sleep- starved, they have to overcome one hurdle after another.